Turf juveniles aim to boost Breeders’ Cup credentials at Santa Anita
Fittingly enough on Columbus Day, turf juveniles embark upon a voyage of discovery in a pair of $100,000 turf stakes at Santa Anita. They might not be facing storms, sea monsters, or an uncertain path, but many are entering unknown territory over a route of ground. Who will navigate well enough to reach destination Breeders’ Cup?
Of the 11 fillies in the Surfer Girl, seven will be trying a mile for the first time, including Wesley Ward’s Con Te Partiro (pictured). The Kentucky shipper began her career on dirt at Keeneland, where she aired sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs in April. After a fourth in the Kentucky Juvenile, she switched to turf and routed her foes, showing an off-the-pace dimension, in the 5 1/2-furlong Bolton Landing at Saratoga. Although this represents a substantial step up in distance, Con Te Partiro’s pedigree offers every encouragement. She’s by Scat Daddy and out of a Street Cry mare, and her half-brother is multiple Grade 2-placed router Donworth. New rider Flavien Prat is another plus.
Unbeaten Happy Mesa invades from Maryland for Graham Motion, who dispatched Dancing Rags from his Fair Hill base to capture Friday’s Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland. Happy Mesa won both starts for original trainer Hamilton Smith, scoring in a maiden claimer on the Laurel dirt and a 37-1 upset in the grassy Selima. That resulted in Highclere and partners buying into the promising daughter of Sky Mesa and transferring her to Motion. As with Con Te Partiro, Happy Mesa stretches out beyond 5 1/2 furlongs for the first time, but she’s bred for it – and she gets Florent Geroux.
Glen Hill Farm’s Deer Valley, a Speightstown half-sister to 2010 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) winner Crisp, comes off a six-furlong maiden win at Kentucky Downs. On that evidence, the Tom Proctor trainee should handle Santa Anita’s mile just fine.
Multiple stakes-placed Italian import La Force makes her stateside bow for Paddy Gallagher. Between her pedigree and performance around seven furlongs, she has no worries on the stamina front, and in fact may want to go longer than this. English import Miss Sugars, whose second dam is 1999 Natalma (G3) winner Hoh Dear, was a consistent handicapper in sprints at home.
Two others are trying a route while simultaneously taking a turf experiment, and both are eligible to improve for the surface switch. Keith Desormeaux’s Miss Southern Miss finished second in the Sorrento (G2) and Landaluce, but only fifth in the Del Mar Debutante (G1), and the More Than Ready filly may be just that for the turf. Doowop Shedoo has yet to show that level of form, having started out at Santa Rosa, but the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil deserves a shot as a daughter of Scat Daddy.
Of those with experience at a mile, three are exiting the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf – third-placer Lady Beware, fifth Auntjenn, and eighth Simmy’s Temple. Lady Beware had brought good maiden form from Ireland, where she’d placed to eventual Cheveley Park (G1) winner Brave Anna, and she could move forward in her second U.S. appearance. Post 10 may be a hindrance for the Shelbe Ruis maiden, however.
By the same token, British-bred Simmy’s Temple, who was up against it from her outside post last time, is much better drawn here in post 4. Second to future Middle Park (G1) hero The Last Lion in their mutual debut in Doncaster’s Brocklesby, the Doug O’Neill juvenile broke her maiden over a grassy mile at Del Mar.
Shy was a troubled second to the far more seasoned Rooms in her first start, also going a mile on the Jimmy Durante turf. Interestingly, the Kitten’s Joy filly keeps Gary Stevens aboard as she jumps straight into stakes company.
Later on the federal holiday program, an overflow field of 13 entered the Zuma Beach. The lone also-eligible is Ventry Bay, a Scat Daddy half-brother to multiple Grade 3 victor Winning Cause. Trained by Ward for the Coolmore principals, he was second in a 5 1/2-furlong dash at Saratoga. That same maiden produced Laurel Futurity winner Caribou Club. Needless to say, Ventry Bay would be very interesting if he draws into the field.
The Zuma Beach serves up a rematch among the top three from the Del Mar Juvenile Turf (pictured) – undefeated Bowies Hero (who’d won at first asking at Lone Star), rallying second Big Score, and distant third Billy Big (subsequently gelded). Phil D’Amato trains the first and third, who meet an arguably deeper cast here.
Harbour Master was competing in lesser races in England, but he progressed nicely for Jamie Osborne. In addition to his professionalism, and proficiency at this trip, the British import warrants consideration for another reason. His half-sister is Prize Exhibit, whom DP Racing bought from just about the same connections (Michael Buckley with different partners) a couple of years ago. Prize Exhibit went on to become a multiple Grade 2 winner, and Grade 1-level performer, under the tutelage of Jim Cassidy. Harbour Master has big shoes to fill, and he can get off to a good start here. Note that he literally takes a load off his back, dropping 15 pounds compared to the 133 he was lugging in nurseries.
A handful of intriguing maiden winners looks to step up in this spot. The More Than Ready colt Sonic Boom, who romped at Kentucky Downs for Ian Wilkes, and Belmont Park scorer Toshiro, representing the West Point/Motion tandem, are both stretching out off turf sprints. The Neil Drysdale-trained Offshore was successful first time out at this distance at Del Mar, and now adds Lasix.
Oopper Wallah, a son of Congrats and Miss Singhshix, made a winning debut on dirt, and the form was flattered when runner-up Bernin Sensation came right back to win at Los Alamitos. Still, the Peter Miller trainee is trying a couple of new things at once on Monday. Riser is similarly situated, although the Mizzen Mast colt may find it a more seamless transition from Golden Gate’s Tapeta. Gary Stevens will also know how to make masterful use of his early speed.
Secret House, declared a non-starter in the Front Runner (G1) thanks to a miscue for which he was blameless, tries again nine days later. Yet to build on his smart debut victory for O’Neill, the son of Tiznow and Grade 2-placed turf stakes vixen Mega Dream could profit by pivoting to the lawn. Stablemate Sorry Erik had to drop to the maiden claiming ranks to notch a win. Either that was a confidence booster, or an indication of where his true friends are.
Rounding out the crowded field is Eoin Harty’s thrice-raced maiden Colonel Samsen, who’s run well each time but needs to lift his game at this level.
Con Te Partiro photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Taylor Ejdys
Bowies Hero photo courtesy Benoit